Divorce is almost always difficult for everyone involved. The transition affects every area of a family’s life and poses unique challenges and emotions for all involved. Whether the split is amicable or full of emotion, the aftermath can be rocky. This is especially true when it comes to teenagers.
Teenagers are already going through their own changes and challenges. During the teenage years, everyone grows physically, emotionally, and mentally, and there are a lot of literal and figurative growing pains that accompany this time. Embarrassment is easy to come by, and teens often make mistakes as they learn how to behave like an adult rather than a child.
When you mix this period of change with divorce, the results can be explosive. Many parents, divorced or not, find it difficult to connect with their children during their teen years. However, when parents live separately, it can be especially difficult to keep up with a teenager’s mental and physical well-being. Things fall through the cracks, and teenagers may not be parented as closely as they perhaps should be.
If you are co-parenting a teenager with your ex, or are navigating a divorce with your teenager’s other parent, it is important to know that it is possible to do so successfully and (relatively) painlessly. Here at Stange Law, we see divorced couples navigate co-parenting all of the time and have assembled some tips on how to be successful if you feel lost or confused.
For many co-parents, communication is difficult. If it were easy, the divorce may not have happened in the first place. However, it is incredibly important to put a significant amount of time and effort into communicating with your child’s other parent. Be sure you’re both on the same page about major issues such as curfew, school/grades, appropriate friends and company, boundaries with romantic partners, etc. Even though you do not live together anymore, you have to appear as a united front when it comes to parenting your teenagers.
- Don’t Be Reactive
When your teenager does something that you don’t approve of, or is against the rules, it is easy to feel frustrated and openly angry. It is important to remember that, while your feelings of anger are valid, you are still the adult in the situation. Try to remain level-headed, and refrain from having a conversation about what happened until you can do so clearly and calmly. This ensures that you are able to react in a way that is in line with your co-parenting agreement.
- Be Flexible
Teenagers have busy schedules and lives. They may want to spend time with friends or go to events during the time that they are supposed to be with you. It is important that you allow them to have proper social time, and don’t demand that they only spend time at home when they are under your care. This leads to feelings of resentment and often ends with them lying or sneaking around.
Instead, allow them to socialize within reason. If you feel that you want more one-on-one time with them, let them know ahead of time and ask when they do not already have plans. Respecting their time and social calendar goes a long way with teenagers.
- Keep Your Personal Problems Private
While some honesty and frankness is good to have with your kids, it is important to keep a lot of the big and heavy stuff to yourself. Teenagers are still very impressionable, and any bitterness or frustration you are experiencing about your divorce can easily become a personality trait for them. If they get it from both sides in a co-parenting situation, the results can be doubly harmful.
It is especially important to keep issues that you have with your ex to yourself. Remember, the ex that you are upset with is the teenager’s other parent. Venting to your teen about their other parent is harmful, and is called triangulation. Lots of emotional trauma can result from this practice.
It’s okay to tell them that you’re feeling upset, but assure them that you can handle it and that they don’t need to worry. Look to your grown-up friends or a qualified mental health specialist if you need to vent about your divorce or your relationships.
- Aim for Consistency
When you are co-parenting, it is difficult to know what is going on in your child’s other home. However, with open communication, you can agree on consistent ways to approach problems, routines, and special events. Try to hone in on key rules and come to an agreement between houses. For example, if your teenager is not allowed to use their phone after 10 pm at their father’s house, don’t let them use their phone after 10 pm at your house either. This creates a sense of cohesion and normalcy and can help to alleviate any residual anxiety that your teen may have.
Readjusting your home life is an imperfect process. No two families readjust the same way, and it is almost guaranteed that some things will go wrong. Try to listen to your teenager when they have issues or feel strongly about something. It’s entirely possible that there is a more natural way to do things that you haven’t considered, and listening to their suggestions or complaints may help to show you that.
In general, listening is key in co-parenting. Make sure you are truly listening to your kids, your ex, and your own instincts while you navigate your new arrangement. While you don’t always have to act on their ideas or suggestions, active listening will make your teenager feel heard and respected.
Contact Stange Law
Our team at Stange Law has been helping families with their divorce and child custody arrangements for many years. We have seen families of all kinds come through our doors, and we understand the myriad of different challenges that occur in co-parenting setups. We can help you to create child custody and child support arrangements that work for your changing family and that gives you the foundation for a successful co-parenting future.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation for your divorce or child custody case, contact our offices online.